From Combat to Combat Sports: -Why Veterans Should Train Brazilian Jiu Jitsu- ` -Written by Josh Korzan 8/5/2019
As military veterans, the day we finally decide to hang up our uniform is inevitably accompanied by a mixture of thoughts and emotion. Despite our reasons, the decision to leave is not one made lightly, and whether or not we care to admit this fact, it leaves a void. Our time in service molded us into different human beings, forever changed by our experiences, good and bad. It has fundamentally altered our views of the world and the way we choose to live our lives.
When we detach ourselves from something that we have so closely associated with our identity, it is natural to experience some degree of emptiness. The important thing is not necessarily to prevent, and certainly not to ignore this issue, but rather, to fill this void with positive, constructive life choices. In the following paragraphs, I will make the argument for why I believe Brazilian Jiu Jitsu accomplishes just that, providing a constructive outlet for our nation’s heroes.
A Higher Calling
That same voice that called us to action at the beginning of our service does not simply disappear or lay dormant. We need challenge, excitement, victory, and defeat. Adversity is our process for growth, and without it, life can become stagnant, bland, and uninteresting. Give us a mountain…we may stumble and fall countless times, but in the end, we will emerge victorious, proudly peering out at the world from atop our accomplishments.
In the sport of Jiu Jitsu, adversity is an everyday occurrence. The first day we step on the mats, we may be nervous, anxious, or depending on your personality, arrogant and overconfident. Either way, the result is the same; you will quickly recognize the challenge before you, and you will realize the dedication, hard-work, and growth mindset needed to succeed. Jiu Jitsu has an interesting way of giving you exactly what you need. If you have self-doubt, you will be given confidence. If you are arrogant, you will be humbled. Regardless of what your mountain looks like, Jiu Jitsu will give you the necessary tools and opportunities to transcend it. And the beautiful part…there is always another mountain.
The Shared Struggle
In the military, you and your comrades are together constantly: sleeping, eating, training, fighting. You share in all the highs and lows, blood, sweat, and tears. These shared experiences forge a bond like no other. When we leave the service, it is our brothers and sisters that we miss the most.
In my personal experience, I have not found a closer resemblance to military camaraderie than that found on the mats at any Jiu Jitsu gym that I have trained at for an extended period of time. With enough time on the mats, your training partners become your brothers and sisters, sharing in the blood, sweat, tears, victory, and defeat. They will pick you up when you have fallen down….and will probably throw you back down again ;). They will challenge you, support you, guide you, hold you accountable, and let you know that this is not a solo journey. Just as with the military, these are friendships made for life.
Despite our mental and physical resilience, we are not impervious to life’s corrosive features. Just as with everyone else in this world, our past experiences and ongoing struggles can weigh heavy on our hearts and minds. It is imperative to deal with life’s stressors in a productive manner, i.e., maintain a healthy lifestyle of adequate nutrition, sleep, exercise, and emotional/social support.
All of these aspects are encouraged on the mats. Jiu Jitsu gives you focus…a goal to strive toward, and a roadmap to get there. Training encourages these other lifestyle modifications, and they work together synergistically. Once you begin training, you want to improve…so you start focusing on eating a healthier diet, getting your 7-9 hours of sleep every night, and engaging more regularly in meaningful social interaction with other human beings. In my opinion, these are some of the best ways to fight stress and depression, while investing in your physical, mental, and emotional 401k, allowing you to live a healthier, more fulfilling life.
By no means am I saying that Jiu Jitsu is required to achieve any of this, but I do believe it is a convenient, productive path in pursuit of this goal. I personally believe that Jiu Jitsu makes me a better human being, and would encourage everyone to visit your local gym to see if it can do the same for you. Most gyms will, at minimum, give you a free day to try it out. What do you have to lose?
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